William Shakespeare's King Lear

Good Essays
Throughout King Lear, Shakespeare gives the reader small moments of human goodness to contrast the evil in the play. L.C. Knights describes it as "affirmation in spite of everything," (Coyle). These affirmative actions are clearly seen in response to the immorality, twisted values and evil that are so common throughout this play. These moments are used to give the reader an underlying faith in the human spirit despite the clear role of immorality and a lack of values. The instances of genuine human goodness allow Shakespeare to bring out intense evil and tragedy in his characters and plot without taking away all hope in humanity.

The first affirmation of human goodness is seen as early as Act I Scene I in the play in a moment of madness and despair. King Lear has unknowingly created a high stakes competition that encourages false declarations of love. He gives away his kingdom in relation to his daughters ability to flatter him and articulate their love. King Lear’s stubbornness and oversized ego is blind to the error he makes in rewarding something as immeasurable love in this competitive environment.

Cordelia is the only one who sees the ridiculousness of such a task and unlike her sisters does not fully participate in the competition for her father's inheritance. She describes her love for her father honestly, as important but not consuming of her entire being as her sisters do. Her father sees this as direct and personal insult and banishes her as well as taking her dowry. Cordelia demonstrates through her genuine expression of love for her father that she in fact loves him the most and is not just taking advantage of the situation like her sisters. Cordelia emerges from this twist moral depravity exploitation of famil...

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...triumph of immorality and evil over the few noble characters.

Despite the depressing nature of this scene, Shakespeare once again give the reader’s perception of human goodness a small victory when Lear accepts Cordelia and the father and daughter reconcile. There is a little optimism to be gained as by Lear dying with the belief that Cordelia is alive.

The ending of King Lear is extremely intense and depressing. There are deaths on both sides, both bad and good characters. Although Shakespeares gives the reader many notions of hope and morality, these glimpses were short lived and rarely ended well. They are used merely to allow for harsher realities and intenser savagery. Shakespeare uses these glimpses of morality to keep the reader hoping and believing in a the potential for a good outcome. In the end however the illusion fades and there is no hope left.
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